The press is touting the Democrats’ lame duck Congressional session as a big victory for President Obama. The Hill’s report is typical: “After election ‘shellacking,’ Obama racks up string of legislative wins.”
The Senate’s ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia caps a run of victories for a president who in November suffered what he called “a shellacking” of historic proportions in the midterm elections.
Obama has seen a massive tax package approved by Congress, as well as the historic repeal of the law banning openly gay and lesbian military members.
Let’s pause there. How, exactly, is the extension of the Bush tax cuts, against which Obama has been railing for years, a “victory” for the President? It was a victory for Congressional Republicans and perhaps President Bush; certainly not for President Obama.
He’s also had a string of victories on smaller pieces of legislation, including a food-safety bill, which initially had been tripped up by a clerical error, and a child-nutrition bill backed by first lady Michelle Obama.
This is just another way of saying that the Democrats were still in control of Congress up until today. If the day ever comes when a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate can’t pass a purported food safety bill and a penny-ante child nutrition bill, we will know the apocalypse is near.
This is the most laughable of Obama’s supposed wins:
In what could be characterized as a fortunate break for the president, the Senate failed to pass an omnibus spending bill loaded with more than 6,000 earmarks. Obama publicly backed the $1.1 trillion spending measure, but signing the bill into law would have been politically awkward.
Voting for it would have been awkward too, which is why it couldn’t pass a Democratic Congress. But it is absurd to call both the passage of the Bush tax cut extension and the failure of the Democrats’ omnibus spending bill victories for Obama or the Democrats.
Still, you can see where this is all heading. The press is anxious to rescue their guy from the wreckage of November’s election, so until further notice, his comeback is under way. How real is it? Time will tell. For the moment, he may be getting a slight bounce in the polls. Rasmussen has Obama’s approval rating at -16 and his overall approval/disapproval numbers at 48/51. Those numbers are poor, but slightly better than where the President was a few weeks ago. Gallup has his approval/disapproval at 48/46, which likewise might represent a slight improvement over Obama’s recent standing. Too, the polls are likely lagging, and more press puffing of Obama’s comeback, with talk about bipartisanship and less gridlock in Washington, could give him a bit more of a boost.
But to have a real comeback, Obama will have to pursue policies that the voters favor. His position is often compared to that of Bill Clinton after the Republican sweep of 1994. The parallel is obvious, but there are important differences. Clinton rebounded by playing small-ball, talking about issues like school uniforms. For the most part, he was content to sit back, let the economy boom and check out the interns. The public was happy with a President who wasn’t trying to socialize health care or otherwise interfere with the good times the country was then experiencing.
Today’s environment is very different. This time, the voters are serious. The nation faces several existential threats, and most voters know it. Obama can’t regain the voters’ favor by playing small-ball, even if he were philosophically willing to do so, which he probably isn’t. Nor is he going to adopt conservative solutions to our most intractable problems, by, for example, offering a budget that includes significant cuts, or undertaking to reform entitlements.
So it’s going to take a lot more than media cheerleading for Obama and the Democrats to make a meaningful comeback.
PAUL adds: It will take an economic comeback and considerable restraint by Obama when it comes to dealing with his leftist ideas and impulses.
The two significant victories Obama achieved in the lame duck session — repeal of DADT and ratification of New Start — both occurred because the military provided him with enough cover to win over some Republican Senators. In the case of DADT, the military provided only ambiguous cover, but Obama didn’t need many Republican votes. In the case of New Start, the military’s support was more wholehearted. Without it, Obama could not have won over conservative Senators like Corker, Cochran, and Isakson.
Unfortunately for Obama, the military can’t help him with a left-liberal domestic agenda. And I don’t see the new House passing left-liberal agenda items of any sort under any circumstances.